Is Yelp Helping or Hurting Your Restaurant?

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You might think you have the best restaurant in town, and most of your diners might agree with you, but you want everyone else to know how great your restaurant is, too. However, nobody appreciates a self-promoter, and it can be a turn-off for potential customers to hear you proclaim yourself to be the best without any evidence to back it up.

How to potential customers know which restaurant is actually the best, then? Many of them have turned to “customer reviews,” since we feel like we can trust the opinions of our peers, especially when they have nothing to gain from giving either a positive or negative review.

What is Yelp?

Thanks to this desire for online users to see other customer’s reviews, businesses like Yelp have become very popular, especially in the restaurant industry. Yelp is a San Francisco-based website, and it is described as an “online urban city guide that helps people find cool places to eat, shop, drink, relax, and play based on the informed opinions of locals in the know.” Started in 2004, it is still growing strong and covers over 60 cities.

How Can Yelp Hurt My Restaurant?

Many small businesses use social media since it is a free, easy-to-use service that brings attention to your restaurant. However, a negative review on a site like Yelp can do more harm to a small, independent restaurant than it would to a larger chain with an established reputation.

According to social media expert Rick Jessup, 70 percent of people trust a review from a person they’ve never met. If someone leaves a negative review about your restaurant, and the claims are believable and legitimate, many people will take the review to heart.

Additionally, there is a problem on Yelp with fake reviews getting through that could be damaging to your restaurant. A study from Harvard Business School claimed that the number of fake reviews on Yelp was 20 percent in 2013. Yelp says it filters up to 25 percent of all reviews as fake, but it is hard to verify the source of a review on an online forum.

How Yelp Can Help My Restaurant

Positive reviews are obviously good for business, but only if they are legitimate reviews. In fact, a one-star increase in Yelp rating can lead to a five to nine percent increase in revenue. If restaurants encourage diners to leave good reviews on Yelp, but the diners aren’t already active on Yelp, it is possible that the reviews will be removed, especially if you continuously receive good reviews from “non-Yelpers.”

As a restaurant, it is important to welcome feedback, both good and bad, and Yelp allows you to do that. Even if you receive bad reviews, Internet users can usually distinguish between what is real and fake, and they will be able to put the criticism into perspective.

In addition to the benefit of feedback and positive reviews, Yelp can help you turn up in search engines. In 2011, iPhones began to incorporate Yelp into their Siri searches. So, if someone uses Siri and asks “show me local restaurants,” and you are not on Yelp, you might not show up in the search results. The same goes for Google. If a potential customer searches for a restaurant, not only will the restaurant’s website come up, but also their presence on sites such as Yelp. By utilizing Yelp, people will be able to find you easier in online search results.

How to Use Yelp To Your Advantage

There is some risk to Yelp, but since anyone can rate your restaurant whether or not you are actively participating, you should utilize it to your advantage.

  • The first step is to claim your business. You’ll have to create an account with the app and make sure your business is listed. If it is, you can click a link to “claim local business.” If it is not, you can add your restaurant to the app.
  • Once you are verified on Yelp, you can respond publicly and privately to customer comments and reviews. Reply to comments, both positive and negative, and use the app to give promotions.
  • Yelp allows you to view your business trends, along with other businesses, so you can get to know your competition and use that to your advantage.

As a restaurant, if Yelp is available in your city and you’re not already on it, you should sign up. It is important to allow feedback for your restaurant and take advantage of the impact the positive reviews can have. Also, it’ll help you come up in searches, especially on iPhones. We’ve talked before about the importance of being mobile-friendly in this day and age, and being on Yelp is another way to be seen by mobile phone users. Overall, the positives of Yelp for your restaurant can outweigh the few negative reviews you may receive if you use it properly.

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Rafi Cohen, a graduate of Baruch College & Brooklyn native is the Co-Founder @ Orders2me, an online ordering platform that gives restaurant owners all the features they need to grow their business in the digital age.

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1 Comment
  • Good writeup Rafi, but I think that business owners today, especially restaurants, do not feel empowered to take their story into their own hands. At the end of the day, Yelp is going to be more willing to bend to the whims of the end consumers. I would say that there is not an equitable exchange on platforms like Yelp b/w the end consumer and the business owner.